Every season, we at Ani-TAY get together and hash out what we think the standout shows currently airing are. We take into account such things as technical merit, innovation, consistency, and the number of female characters that get stupid designs, but the ultimate byline is “Do you think other people should be watching this?” This season has been particularly impressive, with 11 new shows and 3 sequels making our final list.
It must be noted that some shows may have distinct quality to them yet still fail the “Would you recommend people watch this?” acid test, and as such have not been included. I think most of us have a particular show in mind that would fit such a description …
Also, apologies for this being slightly late this season. Whilst Dex usually takes care of organising the collaborative effort, this season he has found himself overwhelmed with various other projects and as such the mewling peons of Ani-TAY stumbled lost and alone in the dark, craving guidance, until they latched on to the person with the closest-sounding name as a substitute.
The 11 New Shows To Watch:
Akagami no Shirayukihime
Written by jonuiuc
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Romance
Spoiler-Free Synopsis: While this story opens with some elements that somewhat superficially recall the classic Snow White story, this is not a retelling of that tale. Shirayuki is an independent young herbalist with strikingly red hair who catches the unwanted attentions of the local prince. Driven to relocate, she meets and befriends a young man named Zen, who happens to be a prince of the neighboring country of Clarines. This story centers on Shirayuki’s journey to establish a place and life in a new country and the progression and consequences of her relationship to Zen.
Why You Should be Watching: Much to my surprise, Snow White With The Red Hair has turned out to be my favorite show of the season. The show’s greatest strength is its writing. I am extremely happy to find that characters are not subject to any cringe-inducing lapses of common sense or needless anime gags or winks at the audience. Everyone acts appropriately for their place within the setting (this is not as common as it should be). The main heroine herself is a breath of fresh air, as she is a likable, smart, emotionally mature, idealistic but not unrealistically written young lady. The rest of the cast is similarly competent and well rounded. The show thankfully does not stumble in the handling of these characters either, as Shirayuki is not always cast as a damsel in distress nor is Zen cast as a prince who always saves the day. The tone of this show is pitch perfect: it is lighter fare but not without tension, it has great “squee!” inducing character moments but is not overly romantic or embarrassing. You may have read the title and the synopsis and thought, “this is not really my thing,” but if you give Snow White With The Red Hair a try, I think you will find it to be a comfortable and easy to enjoy series.
Recommended by: Ascendant - Izanagi, Dexomega, Exile, jonuiuc, Kristof, MainProtagonist, MementoMorie, Protonstorm, RyomaNagare, Stanlick
Written by RockmanDash12
Genre: School, Superpowers
Spoiler-Free Synopsis: In an alternate reality, there is a percentage of children that are able to manifest superpowers upon reaching puberty. Our protagonist Yuu Otosaka is one of these, and he gains the ability to temporarily possess others with the hopes to use his power to live an easygoing high school life. However, he is caught red-handed by the mysterious Nao Tomori and is forced to transfer to Hoshinoumi Academy, where he and the other student council members must help students who have trouble controlling their abilities. The show so far has been them finding others with the powers to bring them to the academy while showing the viewer the effect said powers can have on their lives.
Why You Should Be Watching: If you know anything about the people making the show (Key of Clannad fame and P.A. Works of Shirobako fame; both worked together to make Angel Beats!) then you already have a reason to watch this show, but if you don’t, I’ll say it here: it’s an absolutely stunning show both visually and aurally, and when combined with the Key formula of enjoyable slice of life and then throwing a curveball into the situation, it leads to tension and emotion like very few works can do. While the first few episodes (2-5) may turn off viewers due to an overall lack of direction, Monster of the Week style and traditional Key mainstays of Slice of Life and Moe-ness, for those that can stick it out, you’re treated to a really solid show, one that has entertaining humor, an execution that’s solid enough to make it fun to watch, great characters and a use of an interesting premise that will keep you coming back every week.
Recommended By: Grex, Kinksy, Koda Kazar, MaelwysSC113, MainProtagonist, Protonstorm, RockmanDash12, Stanlick, Stranger
Written by Kristof and Messiah
Genre: Drama, Psychological, School, Slice of Life
Spoiler-Free Synopsis: Yuki Takeya and her three friends Kurumi, Yuri and Miki make up the Magurigaoka High School School Living Club. Supervised by Megumi Sakura, Megu-nee for short, these four girls and their dog named Taroumaru live at Magurigaoka and spend their time working to make the school a better place for everyone. Yuki is ever upbeat and in spite of being one of the older members of the club it is the other three that have to work to keep Yuki from getting into trouble or breaking the club rules, especially that one about not leaving the school grounds, ever.
Why You Should Be Watching: School-Live! may at first glance appear to be just another high school slice of life with a good production value, but come the end of the first episode and its corresponding revelation we find ourselves watching something we have never really seen before. The juxtaposition between the cute visual style and the bleak reality the School Living Club finds itself in, is a master class on how to use lighting and atmospheric effects for the benefit of storytelling and in spite of the stark contrast in mood that can occur from scene to scene, nothing ever feels out of place in this world. Other studios should take notice of how Lerche is able to avoid using black-swath censorship through an excellent combination of angle and atmospherics, add to this a superb sound design and the foreboding and menace reach a level where it doesn’t matter whether or not we see anything. There are few shows that do foreshadowing quite so well as this one, if you are not paying attention you will miss a lot and if you are not watching School-Live! you are missing out.
Recommended by: Exile, EvenStephen, Grex, Kinsky, Koda Kazar, Kristof, Meph, Messiah, Protonstorm, Stanlick
Written by Ascendant - Izanagi
Genre: Action, Drama, Seinen
Spoiler-Free Synopsis: Nicolas and Worick are the Handymen. Mercenaries for hire, they’re among the most feared of the horrors hiding in the filth pit that is Ergastulum, and that’s no easy feat. Gangsta follows their adventures in the criminal underworld, and it’s a brutal and bloody fun romp.
Why You Should Be Watching: Behind it’s bloody and violent exterior, Gangsta still holds a big heart. Nicolas and Worick are both men that should have been broken a long time ago, yet they still cling to morals that have already abandoned them. They’re brutal, yes, but brutality and morals aren’t exactly mutually exclusive. Although their past still haunts them, they manage to carry it stoically, never lashing out at the cruel world that forced them to their today. That shows how strong the human spirit can be. Alex on the other hand is also a product of a violent and terrible life, and she finds it very hard not to succumb to her inner fears, but with Nicolas and Worick’s help, she is able to take a step into a future. No one on this show is a perfect human, each hiding a past seemingly more horrible than their present, yet each (good guy) manages to live on, and find that life still holds a promise of a better tomorrow.
Did I also mention that the art/animation and sound is top-notch too? Manglobe has managed to illustrate a dark and gritty world to fit their story, yet their bright surroundings only show that hope exists everywhere. The jazz music that often plays in the background also provides the perfect atmosphere for the heavy and hard truths that Gangsta lays on the table. The OP, “Renegade” by Stereo Dive Foundation promises an epic and action packed adventure, and is excellent, but the cake goes to the ED, “Yoru no Kuni” (Land of Night) by Annabel. It perfectly showcases the sadness behind the world, but it’s about hope, and looking forward to the future.
Recommended by: Ascendant - Izanagi, EvenSteven, Grex, MaewysSC113, MainProtagonist, Meph, Messiah, Kinksy, Koda Kazar, Kristof, Protonstorm, Stanlick, Stranger, RockmanDash12, RyomaNagare
GATE: Thus The JSDF Fought There
Written by Meph
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Military
Spoiler-Free Synopsis: A gate to another world opens in the middle of Tokyo and out of the gate comes a medieval fantasy army, with foot soldiers, cavalry, and of course sorcerers and fantasy creatures. Youji Itami, a member of the Japanese Self Defense Force (JSDF) and the main protagonist of GATE, happens to be nearby when the gate opens and he helps the police direct people to a safe area until the JSDF arrives. Itami is rewarded for his acts by being promoted to First Lieutenant and being assigned to lead a reconnaissance team to scout the world beyond the gate. The JSDF is sent beyond the gate to ensure Japan is safe from the invaders who came through it, and establish diplomatic ties if possible with the local inhabitants.
Why You Should Be Watching: GATE handles the modern culture meets medieval fantasy world trope very well, showing how both sides react to the other. Itami acts as an excellent stand-in for the audience as the JSDF encounters the locals of the fantasy world beyond the gate. He is an otaku, which helps him accept the fantasy elements of the world, but he is also able to restrain himself and treat the inhabitants as people, whether they be an elf, a princess, or a Lolita (objection noted Morie) Apostle of the God of Death. While Itami acts as an audience proxy for how the JSDF view the fantasy world, we also have representatives of the fantasy world to show us both the JSDF and the world they live in through their eyes. Another interesting aspect is how the power disparity between JSDF and the soldiers of the fantasy world is seen and sometimes used by the locals. The efficiency with which the JSDF can kill is seen as terrifying by some of the inhabitants, bringing an inhumane death with no honor, while the head of the empire sees the JSDF as a tool for ridding himself of potential rivals.
Even with the military theme, GATE at its heart is a humorous show. Many interactions between the JSDF and the locals are punctuated with humor, but it rarely feels like it is at the locals’ expense. GATE doesn’t make you ride the feels train. It isn’t trying to make you feel sad, but usually leaves you with smile as you watch. Which brings us to the most important reason to watch, GATE is plain fun and entertaining.
Recommended by: EvenSteven, Grex, jonuiuc, Kinksy, Kristof, MaelwysSC113, MainProtagonist, Meph, Messiah, Protonstorm, RockmanDash12, Stanlick, Stranger
Written by Stanlick
Genre: Comedy, School, Slice of Life
Spoiler-Free Synopsis: Umaru is an elegant and kind student at the top of her class in both grades and popularity. She appears to take this position seriously, befriending everyone and striving to get good marks, but she has an interesting secret. Behind her perfect facade is a character that none of her friends would recognize: a lazy, gluttonous, conniving, loud-mouthed shut-in who merely lives to play video games, read manga, and swim in cola. Though she behaves properly at school, her true self comes out the moment she steps in her home where the only person she’s comfortable enough with to show her real self to resides: her older brother. This story is best summed up as The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll, Ms. Chibi Hamster, and the Brother Who Feels the Brunt of the Transformation.
Why You Should Be Watching: Umaru-chan is a unique slice-of-life story about a brother and his younger sister. To be honest, Umaru comes off as a terrible person, but you just can’t not love her, and her brother surely feels the same way. She whines, bugs, nags and never stops asking things of him, but people who have a younger sibling should know that this behaviour is something that you learn to live with and learn to expect. Deep down you know that if things were to change, you’d miss the little sibling that always asked so much of you. In a sense, making your younger sibling happy is equivalent to making yourself happy. This is an anime that a lot of people will be able to relate to, and it shines because of this quality.
Recommended by: Koda Kazar, Kristof, Messiah, Stanlick
Written by Thatsmapizza
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Seinen
Spoiler-Free Synopsis: With every beginning, there will be an end. For Momonga, this statement couldn’t be more true. After running for 12 years, Momonga’s favorite MMORPG is finally shutting down its servers. Wanting to celebrate this occasion, Momonga invites all his former guild mates to this event and maybe even reminisce about their past in the game, but only a few of them showed up for a short time and none of them stay. All alone, Momonga waits in-game until he is booted back to reality, but it never occurs. Instead, Momonga finds that the NPCs who inhabit his guild hall have come to life, the guild hall itself has been transported to a new world, and he is now stuck in his max level Overlord lich avatar. Faced with all these new developments, Momonga works to protect what he’s built over the ages in this ever-changing world.
Why You Should Be Watching: Have you ever looked to the horizon and wondered what lies beyond the skyline, but were brought back to the reality that you knew you could never travel there? Overlord fulfills this desire by throwing the main character into a lush new world and giving him the power to traverse this world uninhibited. The journey isn’t all fun and games though as Momonga diligently explores how the mechanics of Yggdrasil apply to this new world. With each new discovery, we are drawn further into the world of Overlord and it’s exciting to wonder what could happen next. How would the new world react to a god-like entity suddenly appearing in their world? How would the power balance of this world shift? Are there any other players besides Momonga in this world? The questions keep coming with each new discovery and it’s exciting to wonder “what next?”
Although wandering through a verdant world is exciting, Overlord spices up this journey with its excellent characters. Momonga is a pleasure to be around because of the double act between his human personality and his Overlord persona. It’s a joy to see Momonga balance his own feelings with the expectations of his underlings as the discrepancy between Momonga’s two personas often leads to fairly good comedy, while also showing how much Momonga cares for those beneath him. Momonga’s former-NPC underlings are no slouch in the character department as well. Each one of them has their own distinct personality independent of how much screen time each of them gets. It’s fun to see this diverse cast bounce off each other in order to best serve Momonga because their conflicting views further build the world while also making them feel more human despite their inhuman exteriors. Overlord is a fantasy world, but the love and detail put into every aspect of the show makes it a joy to watch.
Recommended by: Ascendant - Izanagi, EvenSteven, Exile, Grex, jonuiuc, Kinksy, Koda Kazar, Kristof, MaelwysSC113, Messiah, Protonstorm, Stanlick, Stranger
Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace
Written by MementoMorie
Genre: Mystery, Detective, Dark Comedy
Spoiler-Free Synopsis: Ranpo Kitan is inspired by the works of pioneer mystery fiction author Edogawa Ranpo, and was also created as a tribute to the 50th anniversary of his death. Though it may not seem very apparent that this anime is based on Showa era stories, one of the main characters pays homage to Edogawa’s famous detective Kogoro Akechi (and yeah, the real Ranpo did actually write about human chairs). The anime follows events through the perspective of Kobayashi, an intelligent but jaded middle school student who is thrust into a murder investigation and decides solving heinous crimes is just the thing to break the monotony. He teams up with another wunderkind, 17 year old investigator Akechi, to solve various and gruesome murders.
Why You Should Be Watching: First of all, there’s the simple reason that weirdo detective anime is a rare but lovingly embraced by its followers sort of genre, so if you like dark mystery anime, you’re bound to be happy Ranpo even exists. More than simply being there and being interesting, though, it’s gutsy and stylish. It has the oddest art direction of the season, and this is often used to add a blackly comedic flair to the show’s otherwise just plain bleak world. Gruesome crime scenes become a meticulously controlled stage for Kobayashi and Akechi to direct and introspect on, and even victim autopsies become a zany set piece. Sometimes the quirky elements don’t work. Ranpo can be kind of tacky, actually, but it usually carries its own schtick off and it’s nice to see an anime take such risks.
Did I say bleak world? Yeah, suspend your disbelief and pretend that Japan has a high rate of crimes that, in real Japan, happen a few times a decade and become infamous for long after. Ranpo uses this grimness to explore concepts of justice and morality. Sprinkle some Japanese imagery (butterflies, spider-lilies) and an OP and ED that are pounding and haunting, respectively, and you’ve got a pretty cool show.
Recommended by: Ascendant - Izanagi, Grex, Kinksy, Koda Kazar, MaelwysSC113 MementoMorie, Meph, Protonstorm, Stanlick
Rokka no Yuusha
Written by Protonstorm
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Magic, Mystery
Spoiler-Free Synopsis: Hundreds of years ago, the Demon King rose to power and attempted to take over the world, only to be stopped by the Goddess of Fate. However, she knew that the Demon King would return, and split her power into six. When the time came, six heroes were chosen and gifted the powers to fight back the demon lord. Every few hundred years, this process would repeat, and the Demon King is almost ready to attempt to return once again. One man, Adlet Meyer, believes that he is the strongest man in the world and gatecrashes a royal ceremonial tournament to prove to the Goddess that he has the power to be chosen to fight the Demon King. His plan is a success, and he is chosen to become one of the Braves of the Six. However, when the six heroes meet up, they realize something strange...there are seven individuals who seemingly have been chosen.
Why You Should Be Watching: Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers is one of the better adventure shows airing this season. While the beginning of the premise seems cliche (heroes are chosen to fight evil!), Rokka is really interesting both because of its world and the execution of its premise. The six braves are not the only powerful individuals, as ‘Saints’ of all kinds exist and have a plethora of more unique-sounding powers including the Saint of Swords and Saint of Swamps. This, combined with a world that is seemingly influenced by ancient Mesoamerican culture, creates an interesting and unique setting. Rokka uses this to great advantage in its battles, with a variety of wonderfully-animated fighting styles that vary as much as the different types of Saints. However, what I have found most interesting about the series is that instead of a basic narrative about a group of heroes overcoming evil, the story instead focuses on the group of heroes overcoming themselves, and not just in personality differences. There is an interesting element of mystery as there is literally a traitor amongst them that must be caught in order for them to even have a chance at success, and this suspense makes Rokka a must-watch for the Summer 2015 season.
Recommended by: Ascendant - Izanagi, Exile, Grex, jonuiuc, Kinksy, Koda Kazar, Kristof, MaelwysSC113, MainProtagonist, MementoMorie, Meph, Protonstorm, RockmanDash12, RyomaNagare, Stanlick
Shimoneta: A Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn’t Exist
Written by Grex
Genre: Comedy, Explicit, School
Spoiler-Free Synopsis: Sixteen years ago, in an effort to maintain “healthy public morals”, Japan passed the Law for Public Order and Morals in Healthy Child-Raising, which banned all “dirty” material. Anything remotely sexual, even basic sex ed, was declared illegal. Thanks to this law (plus the speech monitors strapped to every citizen), Japan now boasts the highest public morality in the world. On his way to school one day, Tanukichi Okuma is the victim of a terrorist attack: a girl dressed in a sheet assaults commuters with obscene language, scattering lewd images in her wake. Later, Tanukichi is shocked to learn that the terrorist girl, Ayame Kajo, is not only a fellow student, but vice president of the student council and leader of SOX, an erotic-terrorism group. On top of that, Kajo ropes Tanukichi into joining SOX, aiding in her plan to fill the world with, well, lots and lots of [censored].
Why You Should Be Watching: Shimoneta’s Orwellian society is a sprawling playground for a whole lot of dirty fun. In fact, the show revels in its sexual humor. While the naughty antics of SOX are quite entertaining in their own right (with Ayame herself stealing the spotlight in some respects), the haphazard visual and auditory censorship of their activities somehow adds to the comedy. The pure, innocent population subjected to SOX’s terrorism is exploited just as effectively for laughs, their sexual ignorance leaving them all the more susceptible to some steamy stimulus. We’re talking about an entire auditorium climaxing from footage of fly sex, or a lust-crazed girl forcing “love nectar” cookies onto the unwilling object of her affection. At this point it should go without saying that, if you’re turned off by any sort of suggestive content or fanservice, Shimoneta is not the show for you. That said, if you can overlook or even enjoy this aspect, you’re in for a great time.
Recommended by: Ascendant - Izanagi, Exile, Grex, Koda Kazar, Kinksy, MainProtagonist, Meph, Messiah, RockmanDash12, Stanlick, Stranger
Ushio to Tora
Written by EvenSteven
Genre: Comedy, Demons, Shounen, Supernatural
Spoiler-Free Synopsis: Long ago, a tiger-like demon terrorized Japan until a samurai was able to seal the demon away using the Beast Spear. 500 years later, the demon is released by Ushio, one of the samurai’s descendants. Ushio and the newly named Tora must work together to fight Japanese monsters, save the girls, and find more hamburgers before Tora tries to eat Ushio again.
Why You Should Be Watching: Ushio and Tora is what happens when a 90s shounen manga gets a modern day treatment. If you grew up with Yu Yu Hakusho and Dragon Ball Z, Ushio and Tora should be seen in all of its cheesy, testosterone-fueled glory. The characters are likable, the fight choreography is well done, and the volatile chemistry between the two leads is worth a recommendation alone.
Recommended by: jonuiuc, MaelwysSC113, MainProtagonist, RockmanDash12, RyomaNagare, Stanlick
The 3 Sequels To Watch:
Gatchaman Crowds insight
Written by MaelwysSC113 and EndlessFalconPunches
Genre: Adventure, Sci-Fi
Spoiler-Free Synopsis: Gatchaman Crowds insight, the sequel to Gatchaman Crowds, continues to follow the eventful lives of the Gatchaman who are now symbols of peace known all throughout Japan. Ichinose Hajime, our main character, has taken Berg-Katze, the villainous being who threatened to destroy the world, into herself, and two new characters join the cast - Tsubasa as a new Gatchaman and Gelsadra, an alien visitor. Crowds, the remote-controlled consciousnesses that were released into the world by Rui through the power Katze granted him, have been repurposed into helpful tools for humanity, but after numerous attacks by the terrorist organization “VAPE” and their red Crowds, talk of making Crowds illegal is in the air. Can the Gatchaman do anything to stop the the red Crowds?
Why You Should Be Watching: Gatchaman Crowds insight offers just what its title suggests - insight. Not insight into what the ‘correct’ answers may be, but insight into the need to have a reason to believe what you believe. The first season of Gatchaman Crowds handled questions about how society works and the meaning of being a hero, and the second season doubles down on the political/sociological commentary. In the face of blind idealism from the new characters Tsubasa and Gelsadra, Hajime continues to be the realist of the group, not talking as much as the idealists, but saying more. While the populace is getting wrapped up in what they are hearing through the media and social networking, Hajime makes remarks that cause the viewer to think about what they believe to be ‘right’ in the situation beyond just an ideal of “unification and happiness for everyone.” insight contemplates the implications of herd mentality mixed with idealism in a way that doesn’t try to shoehorn in an answer that the show wants, but presents many views from different characters that lead the viewer to think critically not just about what they believe, but why they believe it.
The overpowering sway that the media has on the public, the nature of idealism, the swells and rolls of a shifting public opinion guided by herd mentality — these are all topics that insight addresses well through different character types, subtle implications, and direct arguments between the characters of the show. When coupled with the seemingly unimpeded idealism of Gel and Tsubasa, the sheer amount of screentime that the ‘Millione Show’ gets this season and the power it is shown to have over public opinion forms the foundation of what looks to be one of the best examples of social commentary in anime.
Recommended by: Grex, Koda Kazar, Kristof, MaelwysSC113, MainProtagonist, RockmanDash12, Stanlick
Non Non Biyori Repeat
Written by Koda Kazar
Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life
Spoiler-Free Synopsis: Non Non Biyori Repeat continues following the lives of four girls: the first-grader Renge Miyauchi, the fifth-grader Hotaru Ichijo, the seventh-grader Natsumi Koshigaya, and the eighth-grader Komari Koshigaya, as they attend school and kill boredom in the village of Asahigaoka in the Japanese countryside.
Why You Should Be Watching: The first season of Non Non Biyori is one of the most beloved and acclaimed entries in the slice of life genre. Non Non Biyori Repeat is less a true sequel and more like the second cour in a split-cour series - just delayed by two years. Repeat maintains all the charms and unexpected feels bombs of the first season, and Renge once again steals the show each week. It may be more of the same, but when that means more of one of the best of its genre, that is hardly a complaint.
Recommended by: Exile, EvenSteven, Koda Kazar, Kristof, MaelwysSC113, jonuiuc, RockmanDash12, Stanlick
Written by Raitzeno
Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life
Spoiler-Free Synopsis: So a former delinquent, her sword-wielding flunkie, a chain-smoking chef, and a sadistic manipulator walk into a family restaurant. They are greeted by a girl afraid of guys, a guy afraid of grown women, a girl pretending to be missing, and a high schooler that looks like an elementary student. Is this the beginning of a convoluted joke? Well, yes, but it’s also just the usual afternoon shift reporting in at Wagnaria.
Why You Should Be Watching: The cast continues to be absolutely stellar. Just like the last two seasons, you’ll root for Inami and Satou, you’ll laugh at Aoi, you’ll sigh wearily at Kyouko and Yachiyo, you’ll pity Souta and Poplar. The difference is, this season is answering a lot of the lingering questions that have been left hanging before. The amount of development is quite surprising, especially considering they keep up the same level of riotous comedy as the previous seasons. Working!!! continues to push its own bar while leaving all of us in stitches. It’s one of the more popular shows among the Ani-TAY authorship; everyone that’s watching any of it has wholeheartedly pushed for it throughout all three seasons. That’s kinda rare! Now go watch it.
Recommended by: EvenSteven, Exile, Kristof, MaelwysSC113, MainProtagonist, Messiah, Protonstorm, Raitzeno, RockmanDash12, Stanlick
Contributors in Alphabetical Order:
- Ascendant - Izanagi
This article was a collaboration by several people of the Ani-TAY community on Talk Amongst Yourselves. You can join the fun on our Sunday Cafes or by posting your own articles on Kinja with the Ani-TAY tag.